What on earth did Mark mean by that question? Why did he want to know what “assignment” T. had? After all, it was only supposed to be a small exchange of experiences. T. simply wanted to establish a network of like-minded people and regularly exchange ideas with colleagues who, like him, were no longer interested in heavyweight software development in the waterfall model. People who had already experienced the potential of agile software development here or elsewhere. Or just people who had understood the shortcomings of the previous approach in today’s fast-paced world. Fifteen years after the publication of the agile manifesto, a corporation might dare to do so. That’s what he wanted to talk about. And not about the legitimation of this idea by an official assignment from a higher authority.
Now T. also understood better why his group leader responded so tentatively to this idea last week in their one-on-one meeting. “Better present it in the group meeting first. And then in the department meeting.” As so often, T. felt overprotected. Of course, this was all well meant by his group leader, as were the omnipresent signs asking him to use the handrail on the stairs. Well-intentioned and certainly sensible, but also incapacitating. He wanted to be treated like an adult, wanted to decide for himself and wanted to bear the risks himself. He was accustomed to this.
It wasn’t about anything particularly exciting. It would never have occurred to him to ask his group leader for permission for such an exchange with like-minded people. In the one-on-one meeting he had only mentioned it as an aside. Even less would it have occurred to him that it might require some kind of assignment or other permission. He just wanted to try it out and if it was a win for the participants, the exchange would grow and if not, he would try something else.
There were enough interested colleagues scattered all over the IT and beyond. T. knew this from numerous discussions in the Enterprise Social Network, which was still more or less like a ghost town. However, T. tried again and again to elicit life from it by sometimes provocative contributions and comments. He knew some of those from previous years and got to know others over coffee after the discussions in the Enterprise Social Network. And there were certainly many more such colleagues whom he didn’t even know yet. In any case, he wanted to build as broad a network as possible with precisely such committed people so as to jointly foster greater agility.
For other purposes, there were already more or less dense and more or less official grass root movements and networks, to which T. also felt attracted and partly affiliated. Sabine and Robert, for example, had set themselves the goal of fundamentally transforming the culture of the organization and built up a large network across all areas of it. They even had a mentor on top management level. Or Anton, Ines and Jürgen, who tirelessly tried to explain to everyone the benefits of collaborating in the Enterprise Social Network. The deeper T. entered the backstage and underground of the organization, the more he got to know and appreciate such networks and movements and their leaders.
These people and their commitment to change was also the only thing T. still held here. Of course, his superiors were satisfied with his work. Very much so. And thus he had also survived the probationary period without any problems. Conversely, the corporation almost didn’t survive T.’s probationary period. Maybe he should have left right away. In his first few months with the corporation, T. spoke twice with other, much smaller companies. But somehow he didn’t want to return to IT service and consulting. He had been doing this for too long. It was after all good to have a fixed place to work now and not a new project somewhere every six months. Better for his family life at least.
Even without the formal assignment, this first exchange was very fruitful. The experiences were similar for all of them. It had been theoretically possible for some years to carry out IT projects in an agile way, but this option was more like an arduous beaten track, whereas the waterfall approach was like a motorway. Accordingly very few dared to leave this motorway.
Some of these pioneers now sat at the table and reported where this theoretical possibility quickly reached its practical limits. And there were more than enough of those limits, but also successes and rays of hope. They would meet again, that much was certain.
This is the third chapter of a still to be written novel about life in the corporation entitled “On the handrail into the decision-making circle” (Chapter 1: The Application and Chapter 2: Meetings and Circles). This novel is an experiment for me that depends on your feedback. Is it worth writing this novel? What could I do better and what should I do differently?